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NBA Bubble Wrap: The Philadelphia 76ers

Who will be the last team to pop the bubble?

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons by Keith Allison by CC BY 2.0

NBA Bubble Wrap: The Philadelphia 76ers

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Well, the 2020 NBA Playoffs are upon us. With its Disney Bubble premise in full effect, the 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s champion. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.

The NBA is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump. 

We’re looking at each of the NBA playoff contenders and diving into what’s at stake for each team, the odds of making a deep run, and key storylines to watch. 

Let’s hit the Philadelphia 76ers.

Philadelphia 76ers

Expectations: Who knows?


The 76ers may be the biggest enigma entering the 2020 playoffs. In a league where talent matters more than anything, an immensely talented 76ers squad find themselves as the 6-seed in a weak Eastern Conference. A run to the Eastern Conference Championship isn’t out of the question. However, a first-round exit against the Celtics is the most likely outcome, particularly with Ben Simmons out.

What’s Working for Them

Size and defense. When fully healthy, the Sixers roll out 4 guys in their starting 5 above 6’8″, and most of them are plus-defenders. While they don’t always have the speed to keep up with younger, faster teams, the Sixers can out-muscle you and wear you down late in the game. In a 7-game series, that style of play can exact a heavy toll.

When it comes to offense, the Sixers are just…OK. They aren’t going to blow you away and short of a dominant Embiid performance, they don’t have the guys that could take over a game. The reality is if the Sixers win, it’ll be based on the work on the defensive end of the floor.

What Might Hold Them Back

Depth. If investing in young talent is the way to go, you can’t knock Philly for its organizational approach to Simmons and Embiid. However, add on the big contracts of Tobias Harris and Al Horford, and the front office is left with very little wiggle room. With very little contract space left over, Philly’s bench won’t be scaring anyone.

But why is that so significant? Well, for this team to play well, Embiid can’t be running up and down the court 40 minutes a night. With Simmons already out, you’re looking at starting-5 of:

  • PG – Alec Burks?
  • SG – Josh Richardson
  • SF – Harris
  • PF – Horford
  • C – Embiid

Coming off the bench, you ask? Furkan Korkmaz, Glenn Robinson, and Trey Burke. If Philly can’t get out to a quick, overwhelming lead, they’ll be in trouble.

Storyline to Watch

Ben Simmons. That’s right – the most interesting storyline to watch won’t even be lacing them up in the bubble.

The Process has been a long, slow, deliberate rebuild by Philly’s front office. Between Simmons and Embiid, they clearly felt they had the talent to make them the class of the East. Problem is, it hasn’t worked out that way – at least, not yet.

The 2020 Playoffs will answer the question many Philly fans have been asking: is Ben Simmons a major piece of the championship puzzle? After posting stronger +/- with Simmons off the court, is a 6’10” point guard that can’t shoot really part of the solution for the Sixers?

If Philly can remain competitive without Simmons on the court, they may look to upgrade over the offseason. With some alleged locker room drama, we could see a major shake-up to Philly’s starting-5 in the offseason.

Ryan grew up outside of Boston in Waltham, MA watching the Pats, Celtics, Sox and Bruins. Despite now living in the vastly inferior sports city of NYC, he remains a die-hard Boston sports fan and is often "that guy" in the bar ridiculing NY sports. Ryan works in tech and is the Co-Founder and President of the recently incorporated Emergent TheaterWorks in NYC, a non-profit theater company focused on producing new and underdone works.


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